The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have since 2005, adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL:

Friday, October 06, 2006

Reporters: A company of parrots in Winnipeg, an unelected opposition in Ottawa

How bad are the reporters in Winnipeg?

Read on and weep.

All 3 local supper-hour television news shows, and the Winnipeg Free Press, proved beyond doubt this week that their "journalism" consists of attending news conferences and parroting what they hear.

In this case the news conference was called by Literacy Partners of Manitoba, one of the insignificant groups losing funding to federal spending cuts.

To hear Lorrie Apps, the executive director, tell it, the federal government had just killed every literacy program in the province, condemning the illiterate to lives of desperation and poverty forever.

And CBC, Global, and CKY news agreed because their reporters couldn't be bothered to correct the impression Apps was leaving. Or to insert simple facts into their stories.

To begin with, none of the televison reporters, and here we use the word extremely generously, asked the simple question --- what exactly does Literacy Partners do to warrant its funding.

Well, for starters, they don't provide any literacy training. That's right, They don't actually teach anyone to read and write.

So what do they do?
They advocate. That's what.
And they research. Uh huh.
And they go around telling other groups what a great job they're doing.

Lori Apps spends a third of a million dollars a year telling illiterate people they should learn to read and write.

And without her, those people are doomed. Doomed, we tell you.

There's obviously nobody else in the province who tells the illiterate they should learn to read and write. Is there?When the spending cuts were first announced a week ago, the Winnipeg Free Press correctly reported that "literacy classes are funded provincially."

But you wouldn't know it from the hysterical rant of Lorri Apps, duly reported by the three television stations and FP reporter Jason Bell.

None of those "journalists" bothered to ask anyone from the provincial government how many illiterates were going to be sent into the wilderness because of the federal spending cuts. Nobody from a single provincial illiteracy program was interviewed, identified, quoted, or even hinted at.

The reporters failed to use any independent thinking when they put their stories together. And so did their producers and editors who have to share the blame for letting such pathetic, shoddy reporting get put before the public.

But cream rises to the top, and one local reporter has managed to humiliate Rachel Legace, Jason Bell and the others who simply regurgitated the Apps news conference.

In his latest column in the Winnipeg Sun, Tom Brodbeck, again, has all the facts the others missed.

Of course, now may be the time to look at the whether the provincial programs are all they're cracked up to be. Just look at the 'literacy' in this description of one of the provincial programs that we found on the internet:

" Open Doors offer classes three afternoons and two evenings per week. It is a Literaacy/Upgrading program and is open to everyone. A family litreacy program is also offered. Computer insturction is available. Short courses dealing with various topics will be offered. Literacy Stages Progamming levels: 1; 2; 3; 4 and additional services for family and one-on-one literacy programming is available. "

It's enough to make you cry.

And how many of you had this day marked on your calender?

What's today, you ask?

Today is the day the Parliamentary Press Gallery resumes its War on Harper.

One month ago the PPG announced a truce. The 450 members would temporarily suspend their boycott of Stephen Harper news conferences to give the Prime Minister time to surrender and plead for forgiveness.

The PPG would accept his contrition and announce victory over tyranny and the world would be safe for democracy again.

It didn't happen.

So now the PPG is back at war. The Hill Times reported this week that Don Martin, political columnist for the Calgary Herald, predicted "reporters will remain professional and won't deliberately set their sights on Mr. Harper's downfall."
"If he's doing well in the public mind and well in polls and has the look of a winner about him, it's going to be pretty hard to poke holes in him. The only risk from the media is if he falters or falls, and there becomes a pack seizing on him like hungry dogs looking to rip him apart," Mr. Martin said. "I don't sense a vindictiveness yet, but there's a thousand ways you can take a shot that you might not have taken at someone if they were playing ball, but I wouldn't go as far as to say that he's going to suffer for his behaviour-yet."

But it's already clear who the leaders are of this rabid pack of anti-Harper attack dogs.

Susan Delacourt of the left-leaning Toronto Star rejected any truce with the Prime Minister.
Ditto Don Newman, host of CBC Newsworld's show Politics.
The CBC's Julie Van Dusen has abandoned any semblance of respect for the office of the Prime Minister (her shameful grandstanding when she hammered on the door as Stephen Harper met privately with cancer-stricken children is but one example.)

The dissidents who broke with PPG solidarity -- Canwest's Peter O'Neil of the Vancouver Sun and Mark Kennedy of the Ottawa Citizen, Joel Denis Bellavance from La Press, and Randall Palmer from Reuters -- are unlikely to come back into the fold. Maclean's Paul Wells has said to count him out too.

Which puts the ball in the PPG court. Don Newman dropped a hint of what to expect.
"When people break gallery rules, the gallery executive usually imposes some kind of censure on them"" he told the Hill Times. They didn't want to press the point a month ago and chose to go the truce route, he said.

But ... he didn't need to spell it out. That was then, and this is now.

At least one former member of the PPG thinks they're riding for a big fall.

Political columnist Alan Fotheringham writes:
Today, there are 450 members of the Parliamentary Press Gallery, most of them 22-year-old graduates of journalism schools, in jeans, and half are female, armed with tape recorders that they jam into the gums of any politician (annual salary $147,000) they can find.

Stephen Harper, a shrewd man, has decided to go to war with the 450. It's a very interesting battle. Interesting because he's going to win it.

The reason he's going to win it is because Missus Bloggs in Moose Jaw thinks the Ottawa media is overpaid, lazy, drinks its own bath water, interviewing each other over beer and is into pack journalism. She knows that. So does the prime minister.

This is a very serious matter, you must understand. If Hogtown Toronto thinks it is the centre of the universe, in Ottawa, the town that fun forgot, the panjandrums of the Press Gallery seriously believe that they hold democracy in their frail little hands.

Read the rest at

The PPG has turned this spat into a black and white issue. Who runs Parliament Hill---the elected parliamentarians or the self-appointed press?

They've publicly stated that they see their job as attacking the government's policies rather than explaining them to the public.
To do the latter is to give in and become Harper's lapdogs.
To do the former is to be independent and brave, beholden to no one.

Not even the little people who just want enough information, unfiltered by press biases, to let them make their own decisions.

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